According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 3 U.S. adults have hypertension, but only about half (47 percent) of those have it under control.
Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure, and blood pressure is the force of blood against blood vessel (artery) walls. If the blood pushes against the blood vessels too hard for too long, serious health problems can develop.
In fact, high blood pressure is often called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms but can seriously damage your brain, heart and kidneys. The CDC reports nearly 1,000 deaths associated with hypertension occur each day.
To find out your blood pressure, you can have a test done at your doctor’s office, and nearly every pharmacy and drug store has a free in-store blood pressure machine. Here’s how to understand your results:
Systolic blood pressure (top number)
• Less than 120: Normal
• 120-139: Prehypertension
• 140-159: Stage 1 high blood pressure
• 160 or more: Stage 2 high blood pressure
Diastolic blood pressure
• Less than 80: Normal
• 80-89: Prehypertension
• 90-99: Stage 1 high blood pressure
• 100 or more: Stage 2 high blood pressure
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems. The good news is you can control high blood pressure through healthy lifestyle habits and taking medication, if needed.
Below are three ways to reduce your risk of high blood pressure or bring your blood pressure back to normal if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypertension.
Tip No. 1: Skip sodium
According to the CDC, most Americans consume too much sodium and it raises blood pressure in most people. Reduce the salt in your diet by cutting back on frozen, canned and restaurant foods (huge sources of sodium) and checking the Nutrition Facts label on the foods you buy. Choose options with less salt.
The recommendation is that Americans consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day as part of a healthy eating plan. A fast food biscuit, egg and sausage sandwich is 1,141 milligrams of sodium, almost ½ of your daily allowance.
Tip No. 2: Eat more fruits and vegetables
You know what’s really low in sodium? Fruits and vegetables!
The CDC recommends eating a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and low in sodium, saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol in order to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with healthful nutrients that reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, helps with weight control and even manages blood sugar.
Tip No. 3: Stay active
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, adults who are physically active are healthier and less likely to develop many chronic diseases than adults who aren’t active — regardless of their gender or ethnicity.
For significant health benefits, they recommend doing one of the following:
• 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis)
• 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
• An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
While heart disease is still the No. 1 killer in the United States and around the world, death rates have decreased significantly, thanks in part to earlier and better treatment of high blood pressure.